Stereo Review in Review: July 1979

While there’s no doubt I leafed through this issue at the time, there probably wasn’t much that stood out. I was still deep in my AT40 phase, and among all the albums examined in the Best of the Month/Recording of Special Merit/Featured Review categories, only one–from George Benson–produced a single that Casey spun (and at that, I didn’t realize how good his cover of “Love Ballad” was). That said, had I been more savvy and worldly-wise at age 15, I would have appreciated much more what was on offer.

Article
Requiem for the Seventies, by Noel Coppage
Coppage surveys the musical landscape of the previous twenty years and notes parallels between the state of things in the late 50s and late 70s (and it’s not a pretty sight in his view). Music from the latter half of the 60s was too successful in disseminating its ideas of equality: “Art itself may argue in favor of egalitarianism, but the making of it is not an egalitarian activity. Neither is the intellectual way of analyzing it.” That said, Coppage anticipates that “the artsy minority will crawl out of the ashes and start to act up again” in the coming decade.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Flash and the Pan, S/T (SS) “…imagine Sixties soul influences filtered through a synthesizer sound that verges on Eurodisco, with some tacky New Wave organ misterioso and Phil Spectorish dynamics, the whole thing mated to frankly melodramatic lyrics declaimed (in the verses) more often than sung…”
The reviewers at SR certainly had their favorites. Coppage loved Gordon Lightfoot, and I’ve already picked two issues (the Junes of 1977 and 1982) when NC tagged Gord’s most recent effort with BotM status. This issue marks the second time this year we’ve seen the next two artists in this space.
–Art Garfunkel, Fate for Breakfast (PR) “Garfunkel doesn’t patronize his material; he merely pokes some gentle, affectionate fun at our sentimental weaknesses, at the same time paying super-professional homage to the pop-music genre itself.”
–The Roches, S/T (NC) “…suggests that the Roches are genuinely bent and are promulgating, among other things, non-specific satire, various attitude fresheners, and a use of the popular song that’s cerebral without being ‘intellectual.’”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Celi Bee, Fly Me on the Wings of Love (EB) “Disco your way through side one of this album, then sit down and listen to side two. It’s worth it.”
–Bill Evans, Crosscurrents (CA) “Evans’ influence stretches far beyond his instrument and the jazz idiom; what he plays is inevitably pretty and full of subtle sophistication, music that is at once accessible and complex.”
–Gichy Dan, Beachwood #9 (JV) “(August) Darnell is a terrific talent…but he just might be too good for disposable pop music…a brilliant exercise in phonographic theater…”
–The Raes, Dancing Up a Storm (EB) “…a happy disco album, strong on both musical and atmospheric values, and it belongs in your party library.”
–Gino Soccio, Outline (EB) “The album’s super hits—‘Dancer’ and ‘Dance to Dance’—show how well Soccio understands (Eurodisco) and demonstrate his mastery of the techniques needed to create top-drawer disco.”
–Gary Stewart, Gary (NC) “…a king of honky-tonk Angst connects it all together, and Stewart quietly proves he’s the perfect singer for such a program.”
–Dwight Twilley, S/T (NC) “…I think he has the little extra something that pulls a rocker up above the herd.”

Featured Reviews
–George Benson, Livin’ Inside Your Love (PG) “So he has chosen to make use of both his instruments by following a respected tradition of jazz-pop crossover. What is most important is that he has retained an impeccable level of musicianship even on his most commercial tracks.”
–Randy Crawford, Raw Silk (PG) “…the songs bear a special mark of excellence, with meaningful lyrics and melodic lines that can be bent and played with, and Crawford bends them and plays with them very skillfully.”
–Marilyn Scott, Dreams of Tomorrow (PR) “By her phrasing, her teasing elongation of a lyric, and her seductive intonation…Marilyn Scott is a refreshing new development in a form (vocal jazz—WRH) that has a deadly tendency to take itself much too seriously.”
–Patti Smith Group, Wave (SS) “Yes, Wave is dumb at times, but I’d rather listen to Patti and her band overreach and fall on their faces than to most mainstream rock acts deliberately pitching under my head and hitting me in the face.”
–Six old musical scores re-issued on Columbia Special Products (PK) Includes Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army, Cole Porter’s Mexican Hayride, and Hugh Martin’s, Look Ma, I’m Dancin’.

Other Disks Reviewed
–Bob Dylan, At Budokan (SS) “I’m willing to believe that Dylan staged this debacle solely to annoy his critics…”
–England Dan and John Ford Coley, Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive (NC) “Technically, of course, there’s not much to complain about; every hair is in place and every system works. The thing is, music’s supposed to be a little more than that.”
–Gloria Gaynor, Love Tracks (EB) “(‘I Will Survive’) is excellent and deserves its success on lots of levels. I wish I could say the same for the rest of this album.”
–GQ, Disco Nights (EB) “GQ is undeniably good, but they face stiff competition from a number of other talented groups with similar styles and material.”
–Herbie Hancock, Feets Don’t Fail Me Now (CA) “I don’t begrudge him commercial success, but we are hearing less of Hancock and more of his gadgets these days, and he is simply too talented to hide behind all that technical equipment.”
–Ironhorse, S/T (JV) “I know (Randy) Bachman has to pay his rent, but then again, is he still going to be doing this sort of thing when he’s forty-five?”
–Marian McPartland, From This Moment On (PR)  “What keeps me a bit distanced from McPartland’s recordings (and I have the same trouble with other fine jazz artists) is her total self-involvement with her piano and her musical ideas—often, I feel, at the expense of the song and/or the audience.”
–Lou Reed, The Bells (SS) “…another completely unfathomable installment of Lou Reed’s Master Plan.”
–The Rockets, S/T (SS) “Listen, guys, Mitch Ryder’s still around and he really needs a new back-up band, and…well, I can dream, can’t I?”
–Supertramp, Breakfast in America (JV) “Dear Mr. American Label President,…Me mum says I should write to you and enclose this sixty-four track demonstration tape which me and my mates have made…I have studied all the hits of the last ten years and written all me songs like them…Me mum says I should write a fair number of songs about alienation and the place of the anti-hero in a neurotic society because this will make the people in Los Angeles weep…”
–Tycoon, S/T (JV) “Tycoon’s impersonation of Three Dog Night is close—close, but no cigar.”
–Ron Wood, Gimme Some Neck (SS) “As a front man…he basically sounds like the Faces and the Stones reduced to formula: boozy, brash, and forgettable.”

Flash and the Pan was George Young (Angus and Malcolm’s older brother) and Harry Vanda, formerly of Australia’s Easybeats. “Hey St. Peter” debuted on the Hot 100 forty-two years ago this week, along with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Cruel to Be Kind,” and “Rise.” It would peak at #76.

August Darnell had been part of the brain trust behind Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah band, and I hear a little of their “Cherchez La Femme” here. It wouldn’t be long before he transformed into Kid Creole.

Later in 1979, Crawford appeared on one Top 40 single, fronting for the Crusaders on their #36 hit “Street Life.”

McPartland was the host of NPR’s Piano Jazz series for decades, well into her 90s.

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